This morning, a number of pro-choice activists campaigning with Dublin Mid West Together for Yes for a Yes vote in Friday’s referendum held a demonstration in Clondalkin, highlighting the cases of Irish women who have been forced to travel abroad to access abortion.
Twelve women wearing black Repeal jumpers stood amidst and behind an array of shoes, representing the average of twelve women who travel abroad every day to end their pregnancies, while the eighty four pairs of shoes represented the amount of women and girls denied access to abortion every week in Ireland, including the women who have had to travel, as well as those who can’t travel.
Kellie Marie Sweeney, a nurse and parent active with Together for Yes, organised the display after being inspired by the ‘In Her Shoes’ Facebook page (facebook.com/RepealTheEighth/). “Towns all over Ireland are displaying women’s shoes trying to convey the magnitude of the issue,” Sweeney said, in reference to the numerous other similar displays which have been held.
The ‘In Her Shoes’ Facebook page, Sweeney feels, gives the Irish women who have availed of abortion services “a platform so that their voices are heard.” Commenting on how the eighth amendment exports Irish women and their problems, Sweeney expressed disappointment at the current state of abortion offered to women in Ireland, who must “travel to the UK to access safe abortion services, while at least three women a week risk a fourteen year prison sentence to buy and take illegal abortion pills from sources online.”
Sweeney, explaining the meaning behind the display, said:
“We have eighty four pairs of shoes here today to display a visual representation of the eighty four women and girls a week who need abortion services in Ireland. I think it’s helpful to see this image in our minds before we vote on Friday. Abortion is happening in Ireland whether people like it or not. And people need to decide if they are going to continue to export the problem and punish women and girls, or if they are going to have kindness and compassion by voting to help women and girls in a crisis.”
When asked of her experiences on the campaign trail, Sweeney said the response she has received has been “positive overall”, although she also stated that “there are a lot of hard no voters, and a lot of people still undecided.”
Sweeney expressed concern and uncertainty over whether or not the referendum will pass, saying “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the vote on Friday. I think it will be close and I think it can go either way.”
When asked what reality will be for Irish women if the referendum fails to pass, Sweeney said that “Not only do I fear that things will stay the same, but I fear that things will get worse.” She noted that we are putting women’s lives in the hands of British politicians, who we do not elect, and that they could change their laws with regards to abortion, which, as it stands, could affect Irish women very negatively.
People Before Profit Councillor for Clondalkin Madeleine Johansson, who is also active with Together for Yes campaigning for a Yes vote, took part in the display as well.
Speaking to LookLeft, she said “We are asking the people of Dublin Mid West to put themselves in the shoes of the 84 women every week who have abortions. They are forced to travel or take pills illegally in Ireland. There are many reasons why women choose to end a pregnancy and it’s not for us to make decisions for anyone else. We have to trust women to make the right decision for themselves – that means voting Yes to repeal the 8th amendment.”
Many people who were passing by the civic offices in Clondalkin praised those who took part in the demonstration, some of whom were sporting their Together for Yes badges. The organisers hope that come Saturday, they’ll have done enough work to ensure that Dublin Midwest, and indeed the rest of the country, turn out in high numbers to vote yes to repeal the eighth amendment.